Abstract

Creeps and creep feeders provide visible evidence of tools used by farmers to increase survival and growth rates for young stock. Historically creeps took various forms, built by farmers to suit the animals’ size and habits, but they served one function—they provided a protected space for young stock to eat. Little physical evidence of creeps in use between the 1880s and the 1960s remains, but critical analysis of prescriptive literature and historic photographs can help us document changes in animal husbandry and market strategies that continue today. Farmers made them from scratch, followed plans prepared by technical experts, or bought pre-fabricated units, and used them in confinement operations as well as smaller-scale cow-calf, sow-piglet, and sheep-lamb operations. The tool could simultaneously reflect good business practice, resistance to production regulations, abuse of animal welfare ethics, and investment in modern farming practices.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.

Notes

1. My mother and father accumulated two hundred forty acres of southern Illinois hill country during the 1950s on wages they earned working in the local shoe factory. They repurposed a lot of old agricultural equipment, but the pre-fabricated creep feeder seemed new in my young memory. For other studies featuring my parents’ farm, see Debra A. Reid,
“Tangible Agricultural History: An Artifact’s-Eye View of the Field,”
Agricultural History
86
, no.
3
(Summer
2012
),
57
76
; Debra A. Reid,
“A View from the Furrow: Growing up during the Production Revolution,”
ALHFAM Proceedings 2014
37
(
2015
):
146
62
; and
“A View from the Farm House: Domestic Life and Family Socializing during the Production Revolution,”
ALHFAM Proceedings 2015
38
(
2016
):
49
61
.
2. All material culture theories incorporate historical evidence as part of the process. See E. McClung Fleming,
“Artifact Study: A Proposed Model,”
Winterthur Portfolio
9
, no.
1
(Jan.
1974
):
153
73
; Jules David Prown,
“Mind in Matter: An Introduction to Material Culture Theory and Method,”
Winterthur Portfolio
17
, no.
1
(
1982
):
1
19
; Giorgio Riello
“Things that Shape History: Material Culture and Historical Narrative,”
in
History & Material Culture: A Student’s Guide to Approaching Alternative Sources
, ed. Karen Harvey (
London
:
Routledge
,
2009
),
24
46
, especially 26 and 38. For an overview of material culture methodology, and potential for application in agricultural history research, see Reid,
“Tangible Agricultural History”
; and Cameron L. Saffell,
“An Alternative Means of Field Research: Extending Material Culture Analysis to Farm Implements,”
Agricultural History
88
, no.
4
(Fall
2014
):
517
37
.
For an example of material-rich historical analysis that accounts for structural changes in farming practices during the mid-twentieth century production revolution
, see J. L. Anderson,
Industrializing the Corn Belt: Agriculture, Technology, and Environment, 1945–1972
(
DeKalb
:
Northern Illinois University Press
,
2009
).
3. Charles Scott,
The Practice of Sheep-farming
(
Edinburgh
:
Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works
,
1886
),
86
87
,
92
93
, cited by the Oxford English Dictionary as the first use of the term “creeps” as “an enclosure in which young animals may feed, with an entrance too small to admit the mother.” [John Cownie], “Feeding Small Pigs,” Prairie Farmer, Dec. 5,
1896
,
6
. Sometimes the fences and the feeders combined in one device, the creep feeder. Hence, I use the term “creeps” to refer to fencing designed to protect young stock as they eat, and “creep feeder” to refer to the composite tool that included both fence and feeder. No history of creep fencing exists, nor does any history of feeders designed to protect young stock.
4. Scott,
The Practice of Sheep-farming
,
86
87
. The Oxford English Dictionary indicates that some called the cylindrical rods that separated and stabilized legs on a chair “rounds,” aka stretchers or rungs, and defines “hurdle” with extensive etymology. Scott’s use of the terms implies the use of rectangular fence panels that used cylindrical rods to provide lambs passage through the panel;
ibid.
,
92
93
. The quote about show lambs and creeps with feeders follows: “If the ewes and lambs are folded, lamb creeps can be brought into use, and the lambs allowed to run over the ground ahead of the ewes; they can then also have a trough for cake or corn to themselves on the opposite side of the hurdles”; ibid.,
167
.
5. Geo. W. Franklin,
“Making Holiday Mutton,”
Prairie Farmer
, Dec. 12,
1896
,
1
; J. M. January,
“Farm Animals: Baby Mutton,”
Farm, Field and Fireside
, Mar. 31,
1900
,
393
. This mixture follows the standards advocated by those using the Pearson’s Square or the box method for figuring feed rations; referenced in J. Wagner and T. L. Stanton,
“Formulating Rations with the Pearson Square,”
Fact Sheet No. 1.618, Colorado State University (Sept.
1993
, revised June
2012
), http://extension.colostate.edu/docs/pubs/livestk/01618.pdf (accessed Oct. 1,
2015
).
6. John Cownie,
“Feeding Small Pigs,”
6
.
7. W. P. Winner,
“Growing and Feeding Hogs for Market,”
National Rural and Family Magazine
, Nov. 2,
1899
,
1429
. He seeded the pasture with clover, alfalfa, rye, and oats, and provided water using a fountain. He fed the brood sows a slop consisting of one-third shorts and two-thirds wheat bran, twice a day.
8. L. A. Weaver,
“Feeding Young Pigs,”
Chicago Livestock World
, Apr. 11,
1916
.
9. J. D. McVean,
“Pig Clubs and the Swine Industry,”
1917 Yearbook of the U.S. Department of Agriculture
(
Washington, DC
:
Government Printing Office
,
1918
),
371
84
; for Jumbo, see Plate LXVII, Fig. 1: “Walter Whitman and his pig, ‘Jumbo,’ at the end of four months’ feeding period. At the beginning of the feeding period Walter built a creep in which to feed his pig, but the pig outgrew the creep and had to be fed outside.” McIlroy used a ration promoted by the Purdue University Extension Department: “sixty pounds of cracked corn, 35 pounds of middlings and five pounds of a 60-percent digester tankage”; see
“Feed Pigs Grain before Weaning,”
Ohio Farmer
(Aug. 16,
1919
),
6
.
10. W. H. Black,
“Beef Steers Produced on Range should show Maximum Weight for Age,”
1928 Yearbook of the U.S. Department of Agriculture
(
Washington, DC
:
Government Printing Office
,
1929
),
150
.
11. R. S. Allen,
“Livestock Improvement Greatly Influenced by Educational Exhibits,”
1928 Yearbook of the U.S. Department of Agriculture
,
431
.
12.
“Pig Creep,”
adapted from USDA Plan, Agricultural Engineer, Cooperative Extension Work in Agriculture and Home Economics, State of North Dakota, North Dakota Agricultural College, 1933. The one-page plan included three drawings and the list of materials for an eight-feet by eight-feet, Wood-Post-and-Fence Pig Creep, available at https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/aben-plans/5392.pdf (accessed Oct. 15,
2015
).
13. Frank Ridgway,
“Pigs Survive Well: Day by Day Story of the Experimental Farm,”
Chicago Tribune
, Feb. 24,
1936
,
12
.
14. Agricultural economist, Paul E. Johnston, who taught at the University of Illinois, compiled statistics on Illinois participation in the Corn-Hog Program of the AAA: 1934 62 percent 1935 49.4 percent 1936 43.3 percent 1937 38.2 percent 1938 (estimated) 40–50 percent
P. E. Johnston,
“Effect of the AAA on Farm Organization and Operation,”
Journal of Farm Economics
21
, no.
1
(Feb.
1939
):
47
.
15.
“Creep Feeding Calves,”
Wallace’s Farmer
, Apr. 10,
1937
,
24
288
. For more information on Sni-A-Bar Farms, which existed from 1913 to 1945, see
Twenty Years at Sni-A-Bar Farms
(
Kansas City, MO
:
William Rockhill Nelson Trust
,
1948
); and M. E. Ballou,
Jackson County, Missouri: Its Opportunities and Resources
(
1926
);
“Better Farming Briefs,”
The Farmer’s Weekly Review
, Apr. 6,
1938
,
1
.
16.
“When Creep Feeding Pays,”
Wallace’s Farmer
, Mar. 11,
1939
,
167
31
.
17. Advertisement, Farmers’ Weekly Review, Mar. 6,
1957
,
3
.
18. Farmers built wood-frame, plywood-sided creep feeders with an overhanging roof that covered the fenced-in eating area starting during the early 1950s. These feeders were set on skids so they could be dragged by tractors around feed lots or locations in pastures. Canada Plan Service marketed plans for a beef calf creep-feeder, Plan 1611, dated Sept. 1975, archived at https://csbe-scgab.ca/publications/canada-plan-service-archive (accessed Jan. 13,
2018
). Creep designs included steel and wood; see
“Four Panel Creep in Field,”
1956 plan for Pig Creep Panels, eight feet by thirty-two inches with boards and steal posts, https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/aben-plans/5827.pdf (accessed May 15,
2016
); the plans indicated that the “creep may be free standing as shown or placed against fence which will form one or two sides of the creep.” Another version shows a feeder and fence: “Moveable Calf Creep Feeder” FLA-’54, Plan 5763, prepared by the Department of Agricultural Extension at the University of Maryland, available through the North Dakota State University Extension Service, https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/abenplans/5763.pdf (accessed May 30,
2016
).
19. J. L. Anderson,
Industrializing the Corn Belt
; for livestock, see Chpt. 5.
20. T. Reginald Preston,
“Development of Intensive Methods of Animal Production,”
(PhD thesis,
University of Newcastle upon Tyne
,
1955
).
21. For the summary of intensive methods, see
Farmer and Stock-breeder
75
(Nov.–Dec.
1961
):
3752
59
, quoted in Ruth Harrison,
Animal Machines: The New Factory Farming Industry
(
London
:
Vincent Stuart Ltd.
,
1964
),
1
; on the Rowett system, see
91
92
.
22. Ruth Harrison,
Animal Machines
,
91
. As Rachel Carson explained in the foreword,
“Ruth Harrison raises the question of how far man has a moral right to go in his domination of other life” (viii)
.
Animal Machines has been reissued with new contributions
(
Boston
:
CABI
,
2013
).
Karen Sayer summarized the significance of the book In “Animal Machines: The Public Response to Intensification in Great Britain, c. 1960–c. 1973,”
Agricultural History
87
, no.
4
(Sept.
2013
):
473
501
. The choice of Rachel Carson to write the foreword to Animal Machines emphasized the connection between the human-induced environmental destruction that Carson described in Silent Spring (
1962
), with the human-induced reduction of livestock to “expendable profit-producing machines.”
The British Government responded to the hue and cry that resulted by appointing a committee to study farm animal welfare. The committee report stated five concerns at the heart of animal welfare: that animals should have the freedom “to stand up, lie down, turn around, groom themselves and stretch their limbs”; see
Report of the Technical Committee to Enquire into the Welfare of Animals Kept under Intensive Livestock Husbandry Systems
(
London
:
Her Majesty’s Stationery Office
,
1965
). The report became known as The Brambell Report (named for the committee chairman, F. W. Rogers Brambell), and the five basic concerns became known as the The Five Freedoms. In 1979, the British government formed an independent committee, the Farm Animal Welfare Council, to research practices and review standards to ensure humane treatment of farm livestock; see Press Notice, Farm Animal Welfare Council, Dec. 5, 1979, http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20121007104210/http://www.fawc.org.uk/pdf/fivefreedoms1979.pdf (accessed May 31,
2016
); and
Farm Animal Welfare in Great Britain: Past, Present, and Future
(
London
:
Farm Animal Welfare Council
, Oct.
2009
), https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/319292/Farm_Animal_Welfare_in_Great_Britain_-_Past__Present_and_Future.pdf (accessed June 1,
2016
).
23. Governments in Great Britain and Canada have issued standards for over thirty years; see Scientific Principles of Feeding Farm Live Stock: Overview of British Feeding Standards and Papers about Principles of Feeding Dairy Cattle; Calves, Beef Cattle, and Sheep; Pigs; and Poultry, proceedings of a 1958 conference, convened by the managing editor of Farmer & Stock-Breeder, Brighton, England; and
CCAC Guidelines on the Care and Use of Farm Animals in Research, Teaching, and Testing
(Canada Council on Animal Care in Science [CCAC],
2009
), http://www.ccac.ca/Documents/Standards/Guidelines/Farm_Animals.pdf (accessed May 30,
2016
). For quotations, see T. Reginald Preston and M. B. Willis,
Intensive Beef Production
(
1970
; 2nd ed.,
Oxford
:
Pergamon Press
,
1974
),
1
,
240
41
.
24. The Farm Animal Welfare Council claimed that “as yet, no practical method of feeding creep to very young pigs on outdoor units has been devised so very careful management will be necessary at weaning to ensure that all piglets take to dry food”; see
Farm Animal Welfare Council
,
Report on the Welfare of Pigs Kept out of Doors
(
London
:
Farm Animal Welfare Council
, May
1996
), https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/325253/FAWC_report_on_the_welfare_of_pigs_kept_oudoors.pdf (accessed June 3,
2016
),
21
.
Research conducted at Kansas State University claiming that creep feeders affected pig behavior by reducing opportunities to root out feed or to poop or pee in the feeder. Feeders designed with a hopper proved particularly effective in turning piglets into “eaters,” and piglets in the “eater” category had higher post-weaning feed intakes and better growth performance. See the three-part series by Lora Berg,
“Creep Feeding may Improve Post-Weaning Performance,”
National Hog Farmer
(
Jan. 15
,
2008
), http://nationalhogfarmer.com/nutrition/creep_feeding_improve_postweaning (accessed Oct. 1,
2015
);
“Design Affects Creep Feed Intake, Wastage,”
National Hog Farmer
(
Feb. 15
,
2008
), http://nationalhogfarmer.com/facilities-equipment/feed-water/0201-design-affects-creep-feed-intake (accessed Oct. 1,
2015
);
“Use Pig Age to Guide Creep Feeding,”
National Hog Farmer
(Mar. 15,
2008
), http://nationalhogfarmer.com/nutrition/0301-use-age-guide-feeding (accessed May 30,
2016
). More details appear in Rommel C. Sulabo, et al.
“Effects of Creep Feeder Design and Feed Accessibility on Pre-weaning Pig Performance and the Proportion of Pigs Consuming Creep Feed,”
Journal of Swine Health and Production
18
, no.
4
(
2010
):
174
81
.